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In Williamson v. Evans Nails & Spa Corporation, the Illinois appellate court ruled that video footage of a nail salon customer’s fall was sufficient to reverse summary judgment in favor of the salon and allow a jury to decide whether the salon’ negligence caused the customer’s injuries.
Williamson went to the salon for a manicure and pedicure. As she was descending the pedicure chair, which was on a raised platform, she slipped and fell, breaking her leg. A security camera captured the entire incident. Williamson alleged the salon was negligent in failing to assist her in descending the chair, warn her that the stair to the floor and the floor were slippery, and for violating city ordinances requiring slip-resistant surfaces and handrails. The salon filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing there was insufficient evidence for Williamson to establish what caused her fall, including where and on what she slipped. The trial court agreed, finding that the video did not clearly show the presence of a slippery substance, and because Williamson could not say specifically where she fell, it was impossible to determine whether the salon’s adherence to the city ordinances would have made a difference.
In rejecting the salon’s arguments and the trial court’s ruling, the appellate court found that the video plainly showed the location, circumstances, and biomechanics of Williamson’s fall as well as several potential witnesses to the fall. Importantly, the video showed Williamson attempt to reach for a nearby salon worker with one hand and a cart with the other, which she testified was when she started to slip. Further, Williamson’s retained expert averred via affidavit that the absence of handrails and a slip-resistant surface on the stair from the chair to the floor violated city ordinances and was evidence of the salon’s negligence. The court, in relying on a line of Illinois cases involving alleged handrail violations, found this evidence was sufficient to prevent judgment in the salon’s favor as a matter of law.
The result in Williamson appears to conflict with the result in another recent slip and fall case decided by the Illinois appellate court, Strohkirch v. Native Roots, in which summary judgment was affirmed for the business owner. However, unlike the plaintiff in Williamson, the plaintiff in Strohkirch did not present expert testimony on the issue of causation, did not claim any ordinance violations, and provided several inconsistent statements regarding the alleged cause of his fall. As Williamson and Strohkirch are factually distinguishable, the appellate court’s rulings in these cases are consistent.
It is becoming increasingly more common for accidents to be captured on video. Footage of an alleged accident is often helpful to landowners and businesses in defending injury claims as it can show the location, circumstances, and mechanics of the incident leading to the alleged injury. However, as Williamson and Strohkirch illustrate, this type of evidence can cut both ways. Notably, video footage of an incident alone may be insufficient for a claim to withstand summary judgment. Regardless, landowners and businesses should remain undeterred in their efforts to capture and preserve footage of what transpires on their property, as the footage may still be helpful to the defense despite not being totally exculpatory on the issue of fault.